Matshelane Mamabolo.
Unless Bafana Bafana pulled off a miracle tantamount to those that saw the Israelites escape captivity in Egypt, South African sports fans will probably have to wait for Spring Day to get some cheer.

Whatever the Proteas would have done against Australia yesterday does not matter given they have long exited the ICC World Cup and so it would have been to Bafana the country would have looked to late last night for national pride.

Unrealistic as it might have been to expect Stuart Baxter’s team to beat Afcon hosts Egypt, such is the nature of sport that a miracle could not have been ruled out.

There is a South African sport team though that can be banked upon to fly the country’s flag high come September 1 - Athletic SA’s (ASA) 50km World Championship Team. To be led by Nick Bester and Xolani Mabhida, the 12-member (six men and six women) squad will participate at the global event in Romania as among the favourites for the title.

And rightly so given the strength of both teams. Bester and Mabhida must be gleefully rubbing their hands in anticipation of going into camp with the crème de la crème of local ultra road runners.

The men’s team just gives me goosebumps, it is so strong. Bongmusa Mthembu is a beast of the road and no doubt his 100km World Championships exploits will send fear into the opposition. Need I go into his Comrades resumé?

Talking of Comrades, this year’s winner Edward Mothibi is also in the squad and if that run from Durban to Maritzburg last month is anything to go by, you can bet on him blitzing what is sure to be a flat course in comparison out in Romania. Joseph Manyedi got gold at Comrades but it is definitely thanks to his impeccable victory in the 50km Om Die Dam Ultra that the man from the North West got the nod.

David Gatebe may have had a poor Comrades by his standards but he was influential in training team-mate Mothibi’s success as he used his speed to break up the leading group into about six men.

Lungile Gongqa and Charles Tjiane are consistent top performers with incredible speed and endurance, the latter having won the 50km Loskop Dam Ultra a record third successive time earlier this year.

No matter the opposition, bet on this men’s team getting a podium finish at the championships.

The women’s team is equally illustrious with all of them accomplished ultra distance runners. Salome Cooper is a seasoned veteran who, together with Deanne Horn, formed part of the country’s team that brought home silver from the 2018 100km World Championships.

The duo is sure to pass on that experience to their fantastic team-mates, among them perennial Comrades Marathon gold medallist Yolande Maclean and the amazing Nyombisuntu Mfunzi who has overcome a rape ordeal to become a top road runner.

In a country where the so-called major sports that attract all the sponsors continuously disappoint, the ultra road runners are like a beacon - last year silver medal exploits at the 100km World Champs a case in point.

Come Spring Day, there is sure to be a lot for South African sports fans to be proud about - with Team South Africa certain to deliver the goods.

Did I hear someone say but Bafana also delivered last night? Oh how I hope Thulani Hlatshwayo and Co would have pulled off a miracle in Cairo.


Sunday Independent

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